The agreement will enter into force on 1 July in Montenegro, but Serbia`s closure procedure has not yet been completed. As soon as this is the case, the agreement will enter into force in Serbia. « Close cooperation with our partners in the Western Balkans is essential if we are to address the common migration challenges we face. Today`s border management cooperation agreements with Montenegro and Serbia are an important part of our overall border management strategy, » said Davor Božinović, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior of Croatia, who currently holds the Presidency of the Council. BRUSSELS – The Council of the EU today adopted two decisions on border management cooperation agreements between these countries and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex). Previously, ECRE had raised concerns about the potentially significant powers conferred on Frontex team members under status agreements. These could be used to prevent irregular migration to the EU across the EU`s physical borders, without independent oversight. Last year, a first border management cooperation agreement was concluded with Albania and similar status agreements were initialled and are still pending with North Macedonia (July 2018) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (January 2019). A press release said that these agreements will allow Frontex to help Montenegro and Serbia manage borders, conduct joint operations and send teams to the regions of these countries bordering the EU, subject to the country`s agreement.

Although the European Parliament has approved the agreements with Serbia and Montenegro, future agreements should only be concluded after an assessment of the fundamental rights of the State concerned and must comply with the provisions of the Agency`s 2019 Regulation, in particular as regards the control of operations by fundamental rights. On 7 October, the EU signed a border cooperation agreement with Montenegro allowing the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) to conduct joint operations and send teams to the country. This is the second status agreement signed with a non-EU country following an agreement reached with Albania in October 2018. Other agreements are still pending in the Balkan region. Outside Albania, where the first mission was launched in May under the agreement, Montenegro have not yet signed agreements with North Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The press release on the Commission`s agreement states that « cooperation with third countries is an important element of the European approach to integrated border management. This approach is applied in the framework of a four-stage access model, including measures taken in third countries, measures with neighbouring third countries, border control measures and measures within the Schengen area. Frontex also has an ongoing operation on the Albanian-Greek border. These operations are the first to result from a series of status agreements between the EU and a number of Western Balkan countries.

Such agreements have also been signed with Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and northern Macedonia. The content of all agreements is largely similar, with differences between the procedures negotiated with States. Frontex staff may only act in cooperation with and in the presence of Montenegrin officials. In accordance with Articles 5 and 7 of the Agreement on stature between the European Union and Montenegro on the conduct of operations by Frontex, members of the team shall be allowed to carry arms, ammunition and equipment in accordance with the legislation of their home Member State. . . .